From a window table in the Bistro, I watched an imposing-looking off-roader pull into the mini lay-by. Two equally imposing blokes got out and exchanged pleasantries with passers-by.
"That's security," said a waiter. "We are a hotel and we like to keep it that way."
That was probably why, on the first Friday of 2010, I was able to emerge later to enjoy what is widely regarded as one of Brighton's coolest bars in the company of well turned out guests, not pub crawlers .
It's the du Vin group's fifth hotel, a 37-room venue snuggled away yards from the seafront in the historic area known as The Lanes.
The décor is pleasingly subtle and seaside-y in sand and blue, and my room even had an end-of-pier-style telescope. Twin roll-top baths with a vanity screen to drag across the wooden floor were also a nice touch.
And talking of piers, the real one, packed with arcades, cafés and a small funfair, was five minutes away.
This is an established spot for a hotel: an inn existed there from 1693 and many restaurants have come and gone since. The latest incarnation is something of an architectural feat, given the way it manages to attractively interlink bars, a couple of event rooms, a garden and a wine-tasting area around a central courtyard.
The only downside was the parking. After five minutes in the lay-by to bring in the bags, I was directed to an underground car park two streets away where I queued for 20 minutes on a ramp to get in.
Tel: 01273 718588